May 23, 2015

Penguin Tales: The Dreaded Jungle Basset Edition

Sofie has strong opinions on how she should be treated. She expects to rank right up there among the children (except when there are chores to be done, and then she sadly explains that she can't help because... no opposable thumbs... so sorry). She was curled up in Daddy's chair the other day, fast asleep, while Kaytie stalked a mosquito. When it landed on the chair and Kaytie smacked it soundly with a book, Sofie was startled into wakefulness. She instantly divined that Kaytie had swung a book at her head and she was highly offended. She leapt to her feet and glared at Kaytie. Then she came over to me and poked me with her nose. She glared at Kaytie, looked meaningfully at me, and then glared at Kaytie, whining all the while. Once she had finished tattling, she climbed up in my lap and glared at Kaytie for quite some time.


Another day, she was outside while the kids were scattered over the living room, doing school. She asked to be let in, so Abbie jumped up to open the door for her. When she saw Nate in Daddy's chair, she went crazy. She started whining and stared hard at him. He kindly scooted over and made room for her to sit beside him, but she was not in the mood for sharing. She jumped up beside him and whined and griped at him, trying to shove him out of the way with her rear end. She got so insistent that I finally had to stop laughing and make her get down. She pouted for a long time.


Abbie picked up Because of Winn Dixie and said, "I could read this book! I could read it for school."
I replied, "You can read it for the fun of it."
She was quite startled that reading for fun was a thing, but she tried it and she is halfway through it already. Yea!


Daniel's Cub Scout pack ended the year with a Raingutter Regatta Race. It was a very informal affair, but the kids had fun.


The kids bought some water balloons and then Daniel and Abbie amused themselves by making

Bob the Tomato and 

Larry the Cucumber and a very cold Bob the Tomato


This is Sofie's "You are in my spot!" glare.

And this is Sofie's "You are eating my cracker!" glare

Then she offered to do Kaytie's math for her, but Kaytie knew it was a trick. Sofie just writes "7" as all the answers.

And finally, some Facebook statuses from the week:

Me: I'm so disappointed.
Nate: Don't stay that way.
Me: Why not?
Nate: Because nobody likes a disappointed adult.

I feel so discriminated against.

Kaytie and Nate were having a discussion about music. Then...
Kaytie: Hey, wait! What are you talking about? I thought we were talking about music.
Nate: Not anymore, now I'm talking about the Periodic Table.
Me: Get used to it, Kaytie. Hoggard males can't stay away from the topics of their obsession for long.
Nate: What was that about Hoggard males???
Kaytie: They're obsessive.
Daniel: HEY!!!
Me: There's an exception to every rule, Daniel.
Nate: But, you, Daniel, are not it.

Me: If you have 1 apple and no one eats it, takes it or stomps it into applesauce, how many apples do you have?
Nate: Boy, you lead a boring life!
Kaytie: Why do you say that?
Nate: Because no one has stomped on your apples!

1. lack of violence doesn't equate to boredom.
2. my kids are weird.

May 20, 2015

Schoolhouse Review Crew: FishFlix sent us Privileged Species to review. is an online store for Christian and family-friendly movies. They have a vast collection of all different genres: biography, Christmas, documentaries, kid movies, comedy, Catholic, Evangelical, educational and a whole lot more.

Privileged Species is a documentary. It examines the evidence that the earth was formed by Intelligent Design. It discusses the delicate balance of the universe. Human beings are a privileged species because their bodies, the earth, and even the universe have just exactly the right balance that enables us to not only thrive but to simply exist. If there was too much oxygen or if water was a different viscosity, or if carbon did not exist, we could not possibly survive. Everything in the universe, from the spacing of the planets to the minutest detail of our DNA is just exactly the way our existence requires. Privileged Species goes into detail about the importance of oxygen, carbon and water to the survival of the earth. It also points out that human biology has a special significance to "nature" and is not an accident or chance occurrence.

Privileged Species is not a dry, boring lecture. Filled with gorgeous photography and videos, sprinkled with interviews and featuring geneticist and author Michael Denton, this was an enjoyable 33 minute show.

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Since we are a family that is fascinated with science, and since my husband and both strongly believe in presenting our children with all the facts and being open to discussion and debate and opposing thoughts, we started exploring the Creation/Evolution debate early in our home. Our kids are no strangers to either theory and we often discuss various possibilities such as Young Earth vs Old Earth, Intelligent Design vs Big Bang, if an Intelligent Designer used a Big Bang and so forth. So we were all interested in seeing Privileged Species. Nate, especially, was excited about it. We sat down one afternoon and watched it in one sitting. The 11 and 12 year olds were engaged the entire time, the 8 and 9 year olds were a little distracted but stayed until the end. Afterwards, we were able to have an enjoyable discussion of the facts presented.

I thought it was very informative and interesting. I learned a lot of new things. The importance of the viscosity of water, for example! This is what the kids thought:

Kaytie: It made me think about how much God cares for us because He so carefully and delicately balanced everything so we could live. It also made me think how there is no way this could have happened just on coincidence. This is a good movie for kids who want to learn more about creation and their world.

Nate: It was very interesting. It was interesting to think that if there was not enough oxygen or too much oxygen we would not be able to survive. Or water or gravity. This proves that the beginning of the world definitely wasn't an accident. I would recommend it to teenagers or kids who are interested in science and especially the creation/evolution debate.

Daniel: I learned that if there was too much oxygen in a place that there would be spontaneous combustion. This is important or else we would die. DIE. I liked it.

Abbie: I liked it. I learned about if we didn't have enough air we would die, and if we had too much, we would also die. 

In short, we all enjoyed it and would recommend it to other Creation/Evolution debaters like ourselves. But don't just take our word for it, click on the banner below to find out what other Crew mates thought about Privileged Species and other videos from Review

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May 19, 2015

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Homeschool Legacy

Unit studies are one of those things that I like the idea of, but we just never can seem to fit them in around our previously scheduled work. So I was interested when we were asked to review a "once-a-week" unit study from Homeschool Legacy.

We received a PDF of Birds of a Feather, (they call it a Grab-N-Go) but you can also order a paper copy (paperback) for a few dollars more. These studies (there are a plethora of many different topics) promise flexibility, no prep work, and content that is Biblically centered, comprehensive, interactive, creative and fun.

Once-a-week studies are the perfect way to fit in an extra or supplemental unit study without having to drop your regular work or add hours to your school day. It works like this: you add in some reading every day and then plan all the fun, hands-on stuff for just one day of the week. This is ideal for those homeschoolers who only school four days a week. There is a suggested schedule to help you make it all work.

Birds of a Feather is a four week study divided into these topics:

Bird Basics and Your Backyard Habitat
Bird Identification
Birds of Prey

Each week has a booklist of suggested reading. These are not required books, so there is no pressure to purchase, if you can't find them at the library, similar books will do just as well. However, the cool thing about the booklist is that each book comes with the Dewey Decimal number to make it just that much easier for you to find. There are also movie suggestions that go along with your study. The suggestion is that you plan a Family Movie Night to add extra fun and to include Dad in your learning.

Then each week has "Daily Activities" and "Weekly Activities". The Daily Activities is really just reading the books you have chosen. You are supposed to have books for the kids to read themselves and a family read-aloud. The read-aloud could be done in the evening as another way to include Dad.

The Weekly Activities include a devotional and projects for language, art, math, science, history and just for fun. There are also field trip ideas and, for each week, a supply list. Finally, in each week is a section called Stump Your Dad Trivia, which is a question or two that the kids can ask Dad when he comes home, yet another great way to include Dad!

One more plus for me was that the author (Sharon Gibson) included in the study all the requirements needed to gain the Bird Study Merit Badge for my Boy Scout. These are clearly marked in the guide, so I know when he has done the work needed. American Heritage Girls can earn merit badges in  Homeschool Legacy studies as well.

Birds of a Feather was, of course, about birds. I chose it because it was a topic that we are interested in, but would like to learn more about. There was a lot more ideas and activities in the curriculum than we were able to do, but that's ok. It's not meant for anyone to do it all! We can always come back and learn more about birds later, or not, and that's alright, too.

What we did do was read a lot of books. I loved the ease of finding books at the library with the Dewey Decimal numbers already looked up and written down. While we didn't find every book on the list, we were able to easily find replacement books because of the Dewey Decimal thing already worked out for me!

We also set up a bird feeder in the backyard. We have a handy tree that is easily seen through the big windows in our dining and living rooms. There were several ideas in the study on how to make your own bird feeder, but before I could implement one, Kaytie and Daniel made one with their own idea. I was a little bummed, but... oh well.

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The bird feeder inspired a lot of pictures as the kids were enamored with the idea of watching and learning about the birds that it drew to our yard.

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This one, of the bird in the nest, is my favorite. I think Daniel took it.

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We did follow the study's suggestion of putting some seed on the ground, to attract ground feeders. It attracted a few, but mostly it just attracted our Basset hound, who loves to graze on bird seed.

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The kids used the "helpful things to ask yourself" questions in the study in addition to our guides to ID the birds they saw. And made a list.

We also studied feathers and learned about their parts and how they help a bird fly. We studied other parts of the bird as well. 

We read about Audubon, enjoyed devotionals from Genesis, Job, and Isaiah, compared turkeys to eagles, read about migration, and worked on our nature journals. We had a lot of fun and learned so much! We heartily recommend unit studies from Homeschool Legacy

Homeschool Legacy Review

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May 16, 2015

Penguin Tales: The Tooth Fairy Edition

So, the Tooth Fairy. My kids were all late teethers. They started losing their teeth late and so Kaytie, at 12, is still losing teeth. She had a molar fall out at breakfast this week. So she dutifully put it in an envelope and put it under her pillow that night. However, this is the child that doesn't sleep. So along about midnight, the Tooth Fairy decided that she just couldn't stay up any later waiting for this child to go. to. sleep. so she talked her husband (yes, in my world, the Tooth Fairy is married, where do you think she gets that steady supply of quarters?) into negotiating a deal with the sleepless kid. He offered her four quarters for her tooth (the usual price) and an extra two quarters for her silence. It was accepted with a smirk and all was well.

Until the following afternoon, when Kaytie approached me with a gleam in her eye. "Mom," she said, pointing to a molar on the other side of her mouth, "I don't think I ever got paid for this tooth."
"I'm pretty sure you did," I replied.
"No, I didn't get any money for it."
"Did you put it under your pillow?"
"Where's the tooth?"
"Oh, when I woke up the next morning, the tooth was gone, but there was no money."
"Uh-huh. Well, there's a statute of limitations on lost teeth. If you haven't got a tooth, you're out of luck."

I related this story to her father, later, and he laughed and laughed. "Once she knew it was us she tried to extort a little extra?"

I guess it was worth a try.


Another day, I heard Nate yell and I turned around to see Daniel holding a battery and Nate holding his tongue. I started to ask what was going on, but quickly saw the futility of that line of questioning and just told Daniel to put the battery away. Nate exclaimed, "That HURT!!! But it was funny anyway!"


Mother's Day was awesome. My kids and my husband spoiled me with breakfast in bed, grilled burgers for supper, a fire in the fire pit complete with roasted marshmallows, and two great presents. Kaytie organized the photos. She gathered money from all the kids, chose and bought the frame, chose and printed the pictures all by herself without me knowing that any of it was going on. Steve organized the buying of the bracelet, which has all the kids' names etched on it as well as "We love you, Mom!" 


Kaytie showed me how to make owls with your fingers.


Daniel used my phone to take a picture of this flying saucer cloud on the way to soccer practice.

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May 14, 2015

Schoolhouse Review Crew: WordsBright

We were asked to review a cute little alphabet book called S is for Smiling Sunrise. It is published by WordsBright, a small company that focuses on children's books that encourage learning, inspiring kids while not boring adults. As someone who has read thousands of books to kids over the years, this is a goal I can get behind! :)

S is for Smiling Sunrise is not just a book for teaching the alphabet. Each letter of the alphabet is paired with a lovely rhyme and a colorful illustration intended to uplift the child and teach him/her values of "goodness, beauty, and wonder" as it says on the cover.

This is a sturdy, hardback book with thick, slick pages. The quality is excellent. The illustrations draw the reader in. The rhymes are more than your usual cutesy couplets. There is a lot of information here for the child to learn and many discussions could be sparked from every single page.

All of which sounds lovely in a children's book, even if that was all there was to it. But there is more to this book. A free MP3 song version and two teaching guides that go along is available at WordsBright for downloading. One guide is intended for toddlers and preschoolers and the other for K to 3rd grade. The first is a handful of easy-to-implement ideas of how to draw out the learning and engage your child on a deeper level. The second is more detailed, obviously, and offers a list of questions to ask before and after the book. For each letter, there are four different ways to further the learning. Concepts from the text to explain and explore with your child. Questions to ask your child. Vocabulary words and a fun activity or two.

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This product was a bit difficult for us to use. It is marketed toward pre-K to 3rd grade kids. And I can see that, if your eight-year-old is still a beginning reader. Personally, I think it would be awesome for a child who is 2 to 5 years old. My kids would have loved this book at that age and we would have probably read the cover off of it. It's a sweet, fun little book with enough depth that I wouldn't have minded reading a thousand times.

It was a little difficult for us to use, however. Abbie is eight, in second grade, and reading well. I did talk her into reading it aloud to me, which was good practice, but she just did it to humor me. We also tried reading it to the little one-year-old that we babysit. He was more interested. He was a little young for it, though. It took us several sessions and the bribe of a snack to work all the way through the book. It was a good experience for him, though, and I expect as he gets older, he will enjoy it more and more.

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All in all, I heartily recommend this book for kids ages two to five, or struggling readers in first or maybe even second grade.

Wordsbright Review
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May 12, 2015

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Successful Homeschooling Made Easy

Homeschooling can be an overwhelming proposition. I remember a few years ago, a brand-new-to-homeschool-mom told me, "We've only been doing this a few months and I don't know what I'm doing!" My response was quick, "I've been doing this for years and I was homeschooled myself and I don't know what I'm doing either!" She was not reassured, but it would probably have been more helpful if I could have given her a copy of Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Course from Successful Homeschooling Made Easy.

This is a 26 week course that you can do in the comfort of your own home at your own convenience. Each week, a lesson is emailed to you in PDF form and you can either get started immediately or download and print and work on them when you get a chance. She does suggest that you set yourself a schedule, just to be sure it gets done, but there is no time limit on getting the lessons done, nor is there anything to turn in.

"She" is Stephanie Walmsley, who started homeschooling way back in 1985 and has been a part of the community ever since. She wrote this course to be the "experienced and helpful friend" we all needed at the beginning of our journey.

The lessons are short and easy to read, perfect for a busy mom who needs to get to point and act on it. The first one has been the longest so far, at 26 pages. It starts with an overview and explains how to use the course. Entitled "You can start homeschooling today" it gives you a quick and easy starting point that won't overwhelm or stress you. Just a couple of simple things that you can implement right away and feel like you are well on your way. Each lesson ends with a "homework assignment" that you complete on your own timetable. This is just a way to implement the program, you will not be graded. :) There is also a booklist in each lesson of recommended reading, for further learning and help, although purchase of these books is not required.

In the following lessons, she explains how to be confident in teaching math, offers some encouragement to moms who didn't start out homeschooling, but brought the kids home from a traditional school setting, how to set your vision, be successful, fulfill your dreams, keep yourself from being distracted by some "good things", and how to juggle homeschooling and housekeeping. The last one was really more of a how to include your children in housework and how to teach them to do it well. It included age-appropriate chore charts that gave me some ideas! ;)

The Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Course was simple for me to use. I read the emails as I received them, and then later in the week, I would work my way through the assignments. It didn't take up a bunch of my time and I was able to keep up with it fairly easily. Now, of course, I've been doing this crazy job for a long time and this was all basic, first-getting-started information, so that might have had something to do it. I already have a good grasp on what my goals are and how to reach them. But I do believe that for someone just starting out this would be an enormously helpful course. It seems calming and empowering all at the same time. It definitely gives you a place to start and something to do while you figure it all out. You can read more about it in these articles.

If I were a new homeschool mom, I would have my husband go through the course with me. I think it would be a great way to get both parents on the same page, as well as answering any questions or concerns he might have.

In short, I would recommend this course to any mom who was brand new and terrified, or even mildly freaked out. It's a fantastic resource even if you have been homeschooling for a year or two or more.

Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Review
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